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Old school makes May 3 ballot

| January 27, 2005 11:00 PM

By Brent Shrum Western News Reporter

The question of selling the old high school building at the corner of Mineral Avenue and Lincoln Boulevard will be put to the voters of the Libby School District on May 3, the school board decided Tuesday.

The vote on whether or not to authorize the sale of the building will be on the regular school election ballot along with candidates for two three-year positions on the school board. The two seats expiring this year are currently held by Teri Kelly, who serves as the board¹s chairperson, and Kate Huntsberger.

A draft of the ballot question was recently approved by County Attorney Bernie Cassidy and must be approved by the Montana secretary of state 60 days before the election.

At Tuesday¹s meeting, district superintendent Kirby Maki told the trustees they had the option of holding separate elections for the old school issue and the trustee positions if they wished to have the building issue resolved as quickly as possible.

³You¹re really not going to save much time,² he said, noting the requirement to have the ballot question approved by the secretary of state two months ahead of time. Each election would cost $3,500 to $4,000, he said.

³It could be that we may not have a trustee election if no one would apply to run against, but we won¹t know that for a while,² he said.

Kelly recommended combining the elections.

³It really doesn¹t make much sense to spend $3,500 twice,² she said.

Last fall, the board was considering a mail ballot for the old school question, but that plan was dropped after the cost of such an election was estimated at around $10,000. The board was also considering combining the ballot issue with a special election being planned by a committee working on plans for a public swimming pool. The pool group plans to ask voters in the Libby Parks District, which covers the same area as the school district, to support a levy currently projected at $1.5 million to build the pool. On Tuesday, Maki told the board it appears that the pool group won¹t be ready for its election by May.

³I think they¹re kind of on their own,² he said.

The school board has heard various proposals over the past year regarding demolishing or selling the former high school downtown. A group called Friends of Historic Libby High School has offered to buy the building for $100,000 and is looking into restoration possibilities. Former school board member and current city council member Gary Huntsberger has advocated demolition, conducting informal surveys he said supported razing the old school and obtaining a pledge from the council to provide fill material and access to city water in the event of demolition.